Putting your senior pastor in his place (part 3)

Senior pastorsOn Wednesday nights, I’m the first one at the building.

Typically I unlock the doors, turn on the air conditioning, and plug in my laptop at our Welcome Center. Next I’m off to our main room where I flip on some music and drop off whatever food I’ve brought in that night in our cafe area – McNuggets, Little Caesar’s pizza, Wendy’s fries – so that when the students arrive they have something to gnaw on while they hang out.

Then I’m back behind the Welcome Center. As kids walk in the door with our church’s youth workers, I give them my best burst of energy and attention to let them know that they’re the most important people in the world in that moment.

My name is Tony Myles, and I am a volunteer youth worker… who is also a Lead Pastor.

This Sr. Pastor’s youth group strategy

This is all a temporary gig for me. I hope I’m always a support to our church’s students and youth ministry, however I’m taking part in a strategy this summer intended to eventually help our youth leaders shine.

We had a rough year.

After unsuccessfully trying to do cooperative youth ministry with another church in town, our teens lost their sense of identity in the church. I initially tried to let our volunteer youth leaders figure it out, but we realized that they couldn’t do it all. Eventually I said, “I’ll take care of the teaching and logistics for the summer so you can instead pick up the kids every week and drive them home. I’ll make sure to work you into key roles during our meetings, but spend your energy loving on the kids and building trust.”

That’s been our plan and so far it’s working. In fact, I’ve not attended our youth group the past two weeks to specifically start that transition. I’ll be back again next week, but for now I’m letting the group realize that they do have an identity that tracks back to God instead of me.

I’m not sure that my approach as a Lead Pastor to all of this is perfect, but I do know it’s organic, relational and prayed over. That means it’s alive, and my relationship with our youth workers has grown stronger through it.

You need a new job description!

Often churches expect youth workers to figure these hiccups out by themselves. During a lunch I had with some other senior pastors they confessed that they secretly wished the youth pastor of their church would “do his job.” I didn’t think they meant it with malice, but rather that there is so much happening in a church that pastors hope their youth worker will take on the burden of that segment of the church.

One practical way to address this is to make sure that every year everyone serving in a leadership capacity of the church needs a new job description. If you’re working today off a job description for even two years ago, then you are preparing to be fired or quit. A sign of a healthy church is one that builds ministry around a person they believe is called to their church in a role (because that person has built their life around Jesus Christ) and they let that person rewrite the job description every year to match his/her heart for God and the students in accordance where the teens are and need to go next.

Otherwise you are expecting a job description to be built around a ministry – which isn’t alive. How in the world can something without life interact with God? It can’t, so you are already setting it up for failure. Since the ministry can’t write its own job description, the elected board or pastor does… and often it’s written out of a hole they want to fill versus a vision that has been revealed.

This Sr. Pastor’s place in the youth ministry

In our church, we’ve had several different seasons of youth ministry that required different skill sets. My role as a Lead Pastor was to provide a toolbox of resources (be it in myself, something off my shelf, or a mentoring initiative) so that our youth workers could do what they do best in order to meet the challenges of that season.

Today it happens to involve me planning out our program, which is technically me putting a dozen ideas in a basket that the kids randomly pull out throughout the night. This has helped them to feel a sense of ownership as well, including a recent night when they created the whole list of ideas that we pulled out.

So for the time being, I’ve been put into my place.

QUESTION: What place would you ideally like to see your senior pastor in?

Posted on July 21, 2011

New eBookGo
Focused Youth Ministry ebook

85% off!

Focused Youth Ministry

This practical "how to" ebook will walk you through a 30-step process to discovering God's vision for your unique ministry context. The process also shows you how to implement that vision and put metrics in place to evaluate what is moving the vision forward and what isn't.

Price: $12.95 Limited time: $1.99